When more than 75 percent of the voters in this month’s primary election approved a constitutional amendment for the redrawing of Ohio’s congressional map, the message was clear: The current congressional districts are an abomination.
In a state long defined by political balance between the major parties, having 12 Republicans and only four Democrats in the congressional delegation is one of the worst examples of gerrymandering.
The GOP threw caution to the wind and ignored geographic parameters in order to create the Republican-leaning districts.
The mapmakers – they met in secret because they knew the public would not stand for their shenanigans – packed Democrats into four districts.
The fact that some boundaries stretch 100 miles is proof of GOP political immorality.
The 1.1 million-plus voters who approved Issue 1 earlier this month obviously thought so as well.
The constitutional amendment establishes a process for drawing congressional boundaries that is founded on political bipartisanship, compromise and, most of all, transparency.
No longer will one party be able to undermine democracy the way the Republicans did in 2011, a year after the 2010 national population census was conducted.
We strongly endorsed State Issue 1 and hailed its passage. But if there’s a downside, it is that the new map stemming from the constitutional amendment will not be created until after the 2020 census. In other words, the current congressional boundaries that Ohioans rejected will remain intact for the next several years.
That said, there is one move that could speed up the transition to fair, sensible districts: a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current map.
That suit has been filed in federal court in Cincinnati by the following plaintiffs: the Ohio League of Women Voters; the Ohio chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute; one Democratic voter in each of the state’s 16 congressional districts.
The lead attorney is Freda J. Levenson, legal director of the ACLU Ohio.
“The fundamental thing here to understand is that what we are challenging in Ohio is one of the most egregiously gerrymandered maps in history,” Levenson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “This map was designed to generate 75 percent Republican seats in Ohio regardless of how Ohio people voted.”
The defendants are elected officials, including Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Both Kasich and Husted have come out against gerrymandering in the drawing of congressional districts.
But Husted, who is Republican gubernatorial nominee Mike DeWine’s lieutenant governor running mate in the November general election, issued a statement about the lawsuit that was odd given his previously stated position.
“Why did they wait six years to file a lawsuit challenging the maps? These groups should respect the will of Ohio’s voters who overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment earlier this month that established a new, bipartisan process for drawing congressional districts starting in 2021.”
The 2021 start date is a technicality because the redistricting will be based on new national census figures.
Let there be no doubt that had the constitutional amendment called for the immediate creation of a new map, it would have received enthusiastic support.
RESPECT WILL OF VOTERS
Secretary of State Husted is wrong to suggest the plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit aren’t respecting the will of the voters.
Yes, they are – because they are asking the courts to order a new map now, rather than wait until after the next census.
Legal challenges of gerrymandered congressional maps are becoming commonplace around the country.
Pennsylvania attracted national headlines after the state Supreme Court ruled that the map in play violated the state constitution.
New congressional districts were created that eliminated the advantage Republicans had enjoyed over the years as a result of the boundaries they drew.
According to the Plain Dealer, North Carolina and Texas also have pending federal court cases involving complaints over congressional district maps.
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be ruling on cases from Maryland, brought by Republicans, and Wisconsin, brought by Democrats. The Wisconsin case involves state district lines.
Given the glaring unconstitutionality of Ohio’s congressional district map, the lawsuit filed by the Ohio League of Women Voters and others is timely and necessary.
We are confident that the 1.1 million voters who supported State Issue 1 would fully endorse the legal action so changes can be made without waiting for the 2020 population census numbers.